Remembering the Forgotten Fourth Service

Our island nation has long relied on the goods brought to its shores by the men and women of the Merchant Navy. At no time was their work more necessary than during the Second World War, when almost the entire Allied war effort relied on the men, food, fuel and raw materials carried across the world’s seas by the British Merchant Navy. The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous campaign of the Second World War and the threat from the U-boats was the one that Churchill feared most. Yet those heroic seafarers of the Merchant Navy, nicknamed the ‘Fourth Service’ by Churchill, have, for long, been forgotten.
These heroic seafarers worked aboard vessels like the SS Gairsoppa. An aging steamer enlisted by the Merchant Navy to carry 100 tonnes of valuable war coffers in the form of silver ingots across the Atlantic. This silver was destined for London to help finance the war and pay for valuable war materials to defeat the ever growing Nazi threat.
On 16th February 1941 the SS Gairsoppawas struck by a German U-boat and sent 4700 metres to the bottom of the Atlantic. In the end only one man, Mr Richard Hamilton Ayres, survived. The courage and sacrifice demonstrated by the crew represents the courage and sacrifice of the Merchant Navy and Fishing fleets. Without them our island nation would have starved and the outcome of World War II could have been far from how we know it today.
After 75 years since the sinking of the SS Gairsoppa the lost British silver is now available to British citizens through an official Merchant Navy coin – struck in 99,9% genuine British WWII silver to honor our war sailors. The design depicts the ‘unknown sailor’ centered which represents the 185,000 merchant sailors and fisherman, alongside sits two Merchant vessels typical of the vessels that would make the arduous trips across the Atlantic. Unfortunately however sometimes these vessels never made it back to port and depicted at the base of the design is the SS Gairsoppa’s final moments following the strike of the torpedo.  A coin ‘For All Seafarers’.


“The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war … everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea or in the air depended ultimately on its outcome.”
– Sir Winston Churchill

Source: London Mint Office